Neurobics – Acting on the “NEW” Brain

Learning does not STOP after at 85

The following article is republished from some of my earlier writings or RAMBLINGS, depending who you ask! It has been a few years since I last wrote about the power of neurobics. In the meantime I have been busy practicing and teaching it. I have certainly learned much more from my students and audiences then they have learned from me. After last week’s meeting with such an incredible peer group I was inspired to share this article so others can exercise their brain too! Please feel free to share some of your neurobic exercises below.

An 85 year old practicing Neurobics at the AARP 50 over 50 awards!

NEUROBICS – Acting on the “NEW” Brain

By Dr. Dale Anderson

For years, people have believed that we are born with a certain number of brain cells, and that those brain cells die off as we age, with no hope of ever getting them back. Today, scientists are proving that not only can we generate new brain cells, but we can also branch them out and make new pathways in our thought and learning processes. What does this mean to the average person? That anyone at any age can continue to build brain strength, and that being mentally “sharp” isn’t something reserved for the young anymore.

The act of building brain power is called “NEUROBICS.” And just like the name implies, it’s all about doing aerobics for your brain. Fortunately, these types of aerobic workouts don’t involve 6 a.m. gym sessions or buying workout gear. Neurobics is something anyone can do anywhere in just minutes a day. Consider making the following neurobics principles a part of your daily routine to help your brain branch out.


Act happy!

Method acting is an acting technique in which actors try to replicate real life emotional conditions under which the character operates, in an effort to create a lifelike, realistic performance. Whether you are an actor or not, everyone’s life is a stage play. So bring a bit of the theatre onto the stage of your daily life and purposefully act happy. Get your brain’s ACT together.

Method actors who play happy roles have a chemistry that keeps them more active and more involved in life. Scientifically, acting happy has a chemistry that is measurable with such things as T-cells, gamma globulins, serotonins, endorphins, melatonin, and cortisol, just to name a few. We can even do a PET scan of the brain and see what the emotional map of the brain looks like, because there is a physiology that goes with the emotions. That means we can actually see what anger, sadness and even happiness looks like. Even more important, acting happy, whether through deep belly laughter or a simple smile, activates positive chemicals in the brain that keep us alert and physically healthy. So act happy in order to keep your brain more alive and functional.


Sharpen your senses                                                                        

In our modern society with our technological breakthroughs we have lost so much of our senses. For example, when you go to the grocery store, you don’t feel your food anymore. You don’t smell the meat. You don’t feel the grains. Everything is boxed and wrapped and covered. Such modern conveniences dull our senses, which shrinks and ages our brains. Therefore, doing simple exercises can help refresh your senses and keep your memory strong. Here are few suggestions:

  • Brush your teeth with the opposite hand
  • Sit at a new place at the dinner table
  • Eat a new food – differentiate and identify the spices
  • Get dressed with your eyes closed or in the dark
  • Wear earplugs around the house for an hour
  • Sit outside with your eyes closed and identify sounds and smells
  • Balance on one foot, and then on the other foot, while doing a task
  • Play a card game with friends
  • Read out loud and listen to someone else read
  • Look and stand up while saying the word “down” and visa versa
  • Take a new route to work or some other usual location
  • Try to guess the denomination of coins by simply feeling them
  • Welcome new, novel and challenging encounters

While these activities may seem simple or even silly, they actually help your brain make new pathways. When you use both the left and right spheres of your brain, you put little twigs onto the branches of the brain cells, which are called dendrites. The more of these little twigs you get on the dendriticbranches, the more they start connecting with neighboring cells. The more “growth” of the underbrush, the more chances you have to make new brain connections.

Keeping the brain alive is all about making new connections and branching out. If you’re right handed, you use your left brain a lot. If you can bring some of that brain activity over to the right side by using your left hand for the same task, you’re exercising your brain and developing new pathways. Later in life, should one of your brain’s pathways get destroyed, you’ll now have another small pathway already formed and ready to be built up that can take over the lost function.

Make physical connections

One of the worst things for the brain is for the person to become a loner. When you’re alone, you’ll always do things the same old way. That means you’ll rarely exercise your brain and make new neural connections.

You can connect with others through a club, association, church, or any other type of group activity. Simply being in a crowd, such as a sporting event, enables you to connect. Growing plants is a way to connect, as it brings you closer to nature and brings something living into your life. Pets, especially dogs, are another wonderful way to connect. People talk to their dog. They pet their dog. They walk their dog. As they walk their dog, they associate with others who are walking dogs. In fact, studies have shown that people who are over age 65 who have a dog and live alone visit the doctor 16 percent less often than their counterparts who don’t have a dog.

As you become skilled at something, consider teaching as a way to connect. The act or ritual of teaching and mentoring is a powerful one that fosters long lasting connections and enables you to impact many generations. Remember, any celebration or ritual can bring connection into your life.

Healthy Actions for a Youthful Mind                                         

Exercising your brain doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity that causes you to sweat. In fact, practicing neurobics can be a fun and enjoyable experience that adds brain power every day. So commit to making these neurobic activities a part of your daily routine. As the old saying goes, “You’re only as old as you feel.” Give your brain the tools to feel young and vital – it’ll pay off for years to come.

Dale Anderson
Dale Anderson, MD has practiced for over 50 years as a board-certified surgeon, emergency and holistic physician. In 2001, he became board-certified and a Founding Diplomat of the American Board of Holistic Medicine. He is a member of the American Medical Association, the Mayo Clinic Alumni Association, the American College of Surgeons, the American Holistic Medical Association, and the National Association of Senior Health Professionals.

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